Nora Ephron, the filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, author, and blogger who, among other things, helped redefine the romantic comedy, has died. She was 71. Earlier today, it was reported that she was "gravely ill" and suffering from cancer.
To say that Ephron had a long and varied career would be an understatement. After graduating from Wellesley in 1962 she worked briefly as an intern in JFK's White House before moving to New York to work at Newsweek. After the newspaper strike she got a job at the New York Post—where she broke the story that Bob Dylan had gotten married—while also writing for everyone from The Times to Esquire (her essays from which she collected into numerous books). In the 1970s, while married to Carl Bernstein (as in Woodward and Bernstein), Ephron took a stab at fixing up the script of All The Presidents Men. Though her version wasn't used, it got her really going in the business. Her relationship with Bernstein, meanwhile, became fodder for her 1983 novel and 1986 film Heartburn.
Over the years, Ephron wrote a number of successful, zeitgeist-y movies (Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, My Blue Heaven) and even directed quite a few of them, three of which truly stand out among the pantheon of romantic comedies (Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia). She was nominated for three Oscars, for writing the original screenplays for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle.
Even after her careers took off, it wasn't just movies. Ephron kept writing essays, books (like "I Feel Bad About My Neck"), and plays, including the wildly successful adaptation of "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" that she wrote with her sister Delia.
Born in New York, the oldest of four, and raised in California, Ephron married screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi in 1987. He survives her, as well do her two sons with Bernstein.
During a 2010 book tour to promote her book "I Remember Nothing," Ephron gave a charming interview with NPR in which she talked about getting old, her religion ("My religion is 'Get over it.'") and, understandably, death:
"You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday," she says. "If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."
For Ephron, there was a moment that helped bring that realization vividly home. She was with friends, playing a round of "What would your last meal be?"
(Her pick, by the way: a Nate & Al's hot dog.)
"But (my friend) Judy was dying of throat cancer, and she said, 'I can't even have my last meal.' And that's what you have to know is, if you're serious about it, have it now," Ephron says. "Have it tonight, have it all the time, so that when you're lying on your deathbed you're not thinking, 'Oh I should have had more Nate & Al's hot dogs.'"
Her friend Sally Quinn told the Times, "She had this thing about not wanting to whine. She didn’t like self-pity. It was always, you know, ‘Suck it up.’ "
She will be missed.